Howard developer agrees to Turf Valley arsenic cleanup

September 01, 2007|By John-John Williams IV | John-John Williams IV,Sun reporter

The owner of the Turf Valley planned community has agreed to enter a state environmental cleanup program after a report revealed that part of the land in Ellicott City has arsenic levels 60 times higher than normal.

The announcement yesterday came after a request by Dr. Peter L. Beilenson, Howard County's health officer, for mandatory comprehensive testing of the land where Turf Valley wants to add 1,000 homes to the community.

"Everybody seems to be on the same page," Beilenson said. "I'm very pleased for that."

Beilenson ended negotiations with Turf Valley Builders over voluntary ground testing for the project a month ago, after he learned of tests done two years ago that revealed the elevated arsenic levels. The test results found a so-called "hot spot" on the land that registered an arsenic level of 300 parts per million; a level of 4.9 parts per million is typical for Central Maryland.

"They realized that the administration was very serious," Beilenson said. "We were not going to allow them to go forward with anything."

Louis Mangione, vice president of Mangione Family Enterprises, which owns Turf Valley, said yesterday his company has always intended to do "the right thing" for the property.

"We are a 30-year-old family business which takes health and safety concerns very seriously. Our company has always worked to develop with the community in mind, and this project is no different," Mangione said in a statement.

Mangione Family Enterprises has been trying for two decades to add homes, offices and stores to Turf Valley, an 800-acre planned community on the western edge of Ellicott City. The property already features two 18-hole golf courses, a hotel, resort center and homes.

It costs $6,000 to apply to enter the Maryland Department of the Environment's Voluntary Cleanup Program, and testing of each parcel of land typically costs tens of thousands of dollars, Beilenson said.

The cleanup will reassure the public of the land's safety, according to Beilenson.

"The [cleanup] testing has very stringent protocol," he said. "It's a very transparent process."

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

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